Tag Archives: Arab Spring

Will they or won’t they? Or when will they? Or will they say?

A friend asked me in passing a few weeks ago, “Well what do you think? A couple of months?” I told him, no, I didn’t think so, not in that short of time, anyway. Neither one of us had to ask the other what the subject was. It was about whether—or more exactly when—Israel would launch a military attack against Iran’s nuclear weapons infrastructure.

There has been a popular impression for quite a while that it has to happen, it will happen, and it could be any time now. I do not have an inside track, and I also tend to be wary of going with the flow. So lately I’ve been on the lookout for information that can fill in some of the missing pieces.

The first clearly presented article I saw as I began to watch for such things laid out several reasons why it was not about to happen just yet, written by Professor Barry Rubin at the beginning of last month. You can (and should) read it for yourself, but the effect it had on my understanding of the situation was that things are not as cut-and-dried as the media would like to think they are. Professor Rubin added some further comments on this just last week.

I’ve seen a few other places where similar observations were presented – that a simplistic view that’s it’s going to happen, and it’s going to happen soon – is just that, simplistic. I’ve been putting off this post, trying to get a more precise handle on this, with more names, dates, & figures, but it’s just too much of a moving target right now. So if my friend were to ask me the same question tomorrow, I’d have the same answer, but that’s just my two cents.

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BHOHeadCrop05March2012So I suppose you could say it was a safe for US President Obama to talk tough in his address to AIPAC on Sunday. Since nothing was going to happen any time soon, he had plenty of room (comparing himself to Teddy Roosevelt) to “carry a big stick.”

But—ah, well!—talk is all it was. Cheap talk, at that. And so transparently dishonest that I take comfort in being certain that the AIPAC delegates saw through it well enough. And that, by the same token, the gracious reception given the speech by Israel President Peres and Prime Minister Netanyahu will be seen in the proper light. (As someone put it, “just doing their job.”)

I don’t mean to overwork Professor Rubin, but I’ll cite him again here as having written the clearest analysis of the speech that I’ve seen today. He titled his post, “Promise her anything but give her Arpege.” I think you get the idea.

As for all the support President Obama claims he has given Israel, take a look at this video from The Emergency Committee for Israel that puts things in a more accurate perspective:

Barack Obama ran for president as a pro-Israel candidate — but his record tells a different story

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In my last two posts I brought up the possibility that some of the more violent setbacks to Iran’s nuclear program may not be accidents or the work of Israeli agents (exclusively, anyway) either one, but clandestine efforts by loyal Iranians opposed to the Ahmadinejad regime.

I’ve seen some further comments along those lines, but one of the more interesting items was a piece in Haaretz saying WikiLeaks had released “intelligence” that Israeli special forces had indeed cooperated with Kurdish fighters inside Iran to destroy one or more nuke sites some time ago.

Lest we get our hopes up too high, we need to remember that just because we see it on the internet doesn’t make it so. Blogger Elder of Ziyon pointed out a few things in a post titled Tempest in a Wikipot that may help us to keep things in perspective.

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homs_CropBack in December I was also looking at the way the Syrian revolt against the Assad regime has become a dividing point between the various Muslim states and factions in the Middle East. So far Assad is still in, and things are not looking good for the rebels. It’s odd that the entire Arab world plus Turkey is lined up against the regime (including now even Al-Qaeda and Hamas) but nothing is moving. Russia and Iran are the only two entities that I’m aware are still behind Assad. It would appear especially that Hamas’ opposition is a radical move, given their position as merely a proxy for Iran. How can they get away with that? They’re cutting their own umbilical cord—or are they? The more I look at the Middle East, and Arab behavior in particular, the more I see that we make a mistake when we try to view things from our Western perspective of democratic principles and national republics.

I read an analysis by Daniel Greenfield this weekend which pointed out that Arab loyalties really are not to nation states nor even yet ideologies, but to the clan. At which point Syria becomes an excellent example of this: right now it’s the Alawite “splinter sect” in the persons of the Assad clan that’s desperately, brutally holding on to power. And if they fall, will we see a free, democratic Syria emerge? Not likely. We really should stop making such an asserted effort to fool ourselves.

LiebermanheadcropcloseAt least one person is taking away an important lesson from all this. Israel Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman points out that the failure of the international community (and of the UN in particular) to protect the victims of state violence in Syria clearly shows Israel’s wisdom in not trusting international promises of such protection as a basis for allowing a(nother) terrorist state hard on its borders.

Nuff said?

TTYL. Lineman.

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Here’s the man who *did* predict the “Arab Spring” turmoil:

Chuck-DeVore-Speaking_RS In a post last week, I pointed out the apparent lack of foresight on the part of world leaders with regard to the widespread uprisings we’re seeing in the Arab world. I had not heard or read of any major player who saw it coming.

Until now. I just saw a Twitter entry posted by Act for Israel linking to a book review in Human Events of a work by California Republican primary Senate candidate Chuck DeVore, citing his accurate prediction of some of the events before they erupted in January.

I’ve long been an admirer of DeVore and felt he was the only truly qualified candidate running in 2010. More importantly though, he also offers insights into what’s coming next. I suggest you take a peak on his latest predictions in The Next Middle East War.

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Obama is still driving blind, and still thinks he owns the freeway.

US President Barack Obama was blindsided by the “Arab Spring” revolts as much as anyone else was, yet somehow he acts like he is on top of it all, and like he knows how he can use the events to his advantage. Why is that?

Short answer: he’s a megalomaniac, as became horribly apparent even during his election campaign. (Or if that is too wild a term, compare his behavior with the DSM-IV definition of narcissistic personality disorder, aka NPD.)

I don’t know of anyone, world leader or otherwise, who claims to have foreseen the past four months’ tumult in Tunisia, Yemen, Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, or Syria. There are some now who offer ideas as to where it’s all going, and I can’t say I’m in a position to evaluate the various scenarios being set forth, but neither do I for one minute believe that President Obama has any more of a clue than my next door neighbor.

Benjamin-Netanyahu-to-address-joint-session-320x206 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to address the US Congress next week, and there is pretty much nothing that Netanyahu can do that Obama will like. So Obama is doing the best he thinks he can by trying to get in a speech of his own before Bibi can get to the podium. From what I’m reading currently, Obama plans to praise the Arab uprisings (as if they’re one unified movement, which they certainly are not), and perhaps somehow morph that into an admonition to Israel that it had better surrender to its enemies while it still has a chance to do so.

Dear Mr. President, you had nothing to do with the Arab movements, and you certainly don’t control them, so what makes you think you can use them as leverage against Israel? And anyway, haven’t you heard that in a war of words, it’s to one’s strategic advantage to speak last? So why do you want to go first?

Narcissus_Caravaggio_Crop_Wikipedia The only rational explanation that comes to mind is that the President of the United States is indeed afflicted with NPD. That’s anything but comforting to me as an American, but somehow we’ve survived the first two years of his rule, so maybe we just need to hang on.

(Added note: I’ve expressed a few times privately since the 2008 election the hope that, if push comes to shove, our top military brass will somehow find a way to avoid implementing an order from the Commander-in-Chief which would clearly destroy the nation.  We may have seen something close to that with the recent hit on Osama Bin Laden. An unnamed White House insider reports that Leon Panetta, Robert Gates, and Hillary Clinton were successfully able to overcome Obama’s unwillingness to authorize the hit, by staging what the source has called a “temporary coup.” That’s a pretty fantastic claim, but the beauty of it is that it makes the three look pretty good in the eyes of the American people, and that Obama doesn’t dare punish them, since that exposes his unwillingness to defend this country against its former public enemy #1. Maybe he has a lick of sense after all. Of course, he could use a good deal more than a lick, or even two, but there’s always hope. TTYL – lineman.)

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“I’ll say something that everyone knows which is that is that no one knows.”

Ze'ev_Benyamin_Begin It has often been said—and I’ve said it also—that one of the reasons the US should support Israel is that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East.

Israeli MK and Minister Benny Begin asserts in a recent interview with Giyus.org that three other Mideast nations fit at least the functional definition of a democracy, and considering his remarks we get a different perspective of the current “Arab Spring” movements. Are the protests and revolts which have swept the region democratic in nature? Some of them, perhaps, but that may be of small comfort under the circumstances.

My thanks again to GIYUS for supplying these in depth reports from experts and leaders in the area. With their kind permission, here is the interview with Minister Begin:

Minister Begin to Giyus: Arab revolutions may lead to democracy but not peace

 

A few days ago I met Minister Benny Begin and interviewed him for Giyus.org. In light of the swift turn of events in the Middle East, Minister Begin was able to crystallize the main issues with cutting clarity.  From the history of Hamas’ road to power in Gaza, through a thought provoking analysis on the connection between democracy and peace in the Middle East, Minister Begin offered factual observations.   Our interview was held in English to avoid alterations during the translation. I’m sure you’ll find it as fascinating as I did.

Giyus.org: We are just coming out of another round of fighting with Hamas – where does this lead Israel? Are we heading for another large scale offensive with Hamas?

Minister Begin: I wouldn’t like to enter into details that have military or operational aspects, but I’d like to go into the roots of the issue. The root problem is that for the last 4 years we live next to a "Little Iran". How did this happen? To understand that we have to unfold the events backwards: Little Iran is there because Hamas is there, controlling Gaza. In June 2007, Hamas kicked out the PLO out of Gaza. When they did it, Hamas acted as the legitimate government within the Arab Palestinian camp, having won the elections in January 2006. So Mr. Haniyeh was at the time the legitimate prime minister. How come Hamas won the elections on January 2006? The reason is that Hamas participated in the elections. How come Hamas, a terrorist organization openly bent on the destruction of Israel, was allowed to participate in those elections? The simple reason, quite painful, is the following – the Israeli government at that time, at the first week of January 2006, agreed to allow Hamas to participate in those elections. How come the Israeli government agreed? The Israeli government agreed to the participation of Hamas in the elections, despite its basic will, to satisfy our friends in America. Under the banner of democratization, the Americans under the previous administration were pushing for the inclusion of Hamas in the so called democratic process within the Arab Palestinian camp in Gaza, Judea and Samaria. All that of course, has to do with another sad fact, which is that in 2005 Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza, dismantled villages and forcefully evicted about 10,000 Jews from Gaza. Israel did that under the assumption that these actions will bring about improved security for citizens of Israel. I asked a group of Europeans and Americans in the last few weeks, if they remembered how many Americans or European installations were hurt by rockets launched from Little Iran? Well the simple answer is zero, none. The lesson of the story is that it’s easier to give Israel an advice from the safety of Paris, London, Rome or Washington, and leave us in Israel to deal with the consequences. Israel is left alone to deal with the rockets coming from Little Iran, from that Hamastan. It’s our citizens sitting in bomb shelters and the Israeli government is responsible and obliged to the protection of its citizens.

Giyus.org: Hamas tries to create a separation between its military arm and political arm – how do you view Hamas as an organization? Is this a real distinction in your eyes?

Minister Begin: Hamas is a terrorist group. Every organization has certain departments that are responsible for activities at different times, but the activities cannot be separated one from the other. Hamas has an integral structure. Part of it is stationed constantly in Damascus, where Hamas and Islamic Jihad find safe haven. While Syria is considered a legitimate part of the international community it protects terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah. I don’t think there is any distinction between the military wing and political wing of Hamas. An attempt to make such a distinction is dangerous since it paves the way for international recognition of the organization through that separation – e.g. we’ll talk to the political wing and not the military wing. That applies to Hezbollah as there is no difference between the two organizations. Those who operate the mortars, who physically launch the rockets, cannot be separated from the political leadership. That’s the way it should be viewed and I do hope that European countries and of course the USA view it that way and keep up the restrictions on Hamas recognizing that Hamas is a terrorist organization openly bent on the destruction of Israel.  With the new developments in Egypt, Hamas feels its posture is bolstered by the legitimacy given to their sister movement, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Also noteworthy is the fact that a Hamas delegation was received by the new Foreign Minister in Egypt, before Abu Mazen was allowed to arrive in Cairo. It’s symbolic and important politically.

Giyus.org: The Iron Dome system successfully intercepted its first rockets last week? How will that impact Hamas’ strategy?

Minister Begin: The Iron Dome system is a great success and a great technological achievement which has first to do with the bold vision of the developers. It must not be considered total coincidence that no one tried it. People thought for many years that such an endeavor must fail because of the short time span between the launch of the rocket and its landing, we’re talking about seconds. But the engineers and the scientists in Rafael and the Defense Ministry were bold enough to stretch their imagination. You first have to resort to such imagination before getting to the drawing board. However, you must understand that the system has its limit and we cannot build our strategy on that umbrella that is not hermetic anyhow. How will that impact Hamas’ strategy? I would hesitate to guess. In the last round I didn’t see an immediate effect; maybe we’ll see it in the future. Iron Dome is very helpful but I would not totally count on it. One cannot win a conflict solely by defense. Even if Iron Dome would have been a device that allowed us hermetic closure, it will be fool hardy to sit with our hands on our hand and wait for the technologically system to intercept the rockets. The early warning alarm is still needed, Red Color alert is still needed, and people still need to run to shelters to its sound. There is a limit to the technological ability and a limit to our readiness to accept such situation, where women and children will have to rush to shelters under a barrage of Hamas Rockets even if they assume many of these rockets will be intercepted by Iron Dome. So this great achievement must also be viewed in perspective.

Giyus.org: 2011 has been a stormy year across the Middle East – How do these revolutions and changes impact Israel?

Minister Begin: I’ll say something that everyone knows which is that is that no one knows. No one knows where things are headed, people guess and estimate, research institutions guestimate, intelligence services have their own assessments, but no one really knows. The Egyptian leadership didn’t know a week before the revolution happened, and the same goes for the Tunisia leadership. It’s all in an embryonic stage and I, according to my scientific background, am trying to guess as little as I can. So what I usually do in situation like this is put some constraints on my imagination. The way I proposed to do that is through observation of 3 democracies in the Middle East, since Democracy is what we’re told these events lead to.

I start with Turkey, a long term democracy, even an improved version of democracy compared to Israel since they have a constitution.  So Turkey has a constitution, an independent judicial system, elections that take place on time and are to a large degree orderly and transparent, a parliament, coalition and opposition, coalition crises from time to time,.  So, it’s a fine democracy. Turkey is also a member of NATO. But now we have to take into account that in the year 2002, a new government was elected. The AKP party ascended to the throne and this Islamist government voluntarily elected to turn their ambitions east wards towards Iran under Ahmadinejad instead of Europe and the European democracies, despite the fact that Turkey is a NATO member. They have aligned themselves publicly with the new bloc comprising Iran, Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. They have been supportive of all these bodies. Let’s remember that AKP have their roots in the Muslim Brotherhood in Lebanon in the 20s of the last Century. These are the same roots; they are off shoots of the same plant. This will explain to you why the current Turkish government so readily supports Hamas. The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, which could not hold their conventions openly in Egypt under Mubarak, held them freely in Turkey for years. Finally, Turkey’s alignment with Ahmadinejad, whose ambitions to eradicate Israel are well known, is repulsive. That’s Turkey, a democracy – how far does it contribute to peace and stability in the Middle East today?

The second democracy is Lebanon – a long term democracy, constitution, elections, parliament, and a coalition crisis for the last 2 months. For some Europeans it would seem natural to have a coalition crisis and they assume it’s the same as in a European Parliamentarian democracy such as Holland or Belgium. But we know better than that – we know that Lebanon is not an independent democracy. It’s a Syrian protectorate which deploys two armies – the official Lebanese army, supplied at least partly by western democracies and Hezbollah army which has 50,000 rockets supplied by Iran and Syria, aimed solely southwards towards Israel. It is well know that Hezbollah’s army is much stronger than the official Lebanese army – they will have the upper hand in any clash. What kind of a democracy is this? Of course the recent coalition crisis was engineered by Hezbollah, backed by Syria and Iran. Just a few days ago it became known that even if a government will be formed under Najib Mikati, the Sunite, it will comprise of 2/3 of the March 8 coalition which is the Shiite Hezbollah camp that lost the elections only 2 years ago. So now the same Hezbollah camp might form a new government. That shows us again that the question is very important – to what extent does this Lebanese democracy contribute to peace and stability in the Middle East.

The third democracy is Iraq – it’s a new democracy installed by western democracies. Several months ago they had a second round of elections on time. They enjoy a constitution, parties, free elections and have experienced a coalition crisis in the last few months. Former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki will continue to act as prime minister in Iraq’s almost national unity government. That government includes ministers that belonged to the Sadrist Shiite terrorist group whose leader, Muqtada al-Sadr, resides in Iran most of the time. This very extreme organization perpetrated terrorism in Iraq a few years ago. The Sadrist party now threatens that if American soldiers will still be present in Iraq after the end of 2011, they will create a new coalition crisis. How come that after months of negotiations Iraq was finally able to establish a government?  The secret is simple – Iran and Syria agreed tacitly on a split of power in Iraq between them two. To use an American expression, the Iraqi government "drives under the influence" of Iran and Syria.

Now we sum it up – look at the map, it’s a new Muslim crescent. Five countries – Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Turkey, comprise an Islamic radical block, with terrorism and instability emanating from two of them to the whole Middle East. That’s even before Iran has acquired nuclear weapons ability.

Middle east muslim cresent

The irony is that out of these 5 countries the majority are democracies. 3 out of 5 are democracies. Of course, the numbers are small so it’s not a great sample, but to me these observations, that are factual, there is no assessment there, afford constraints on the possible positive outcome of the revolutions in the Middle East.

Add to this the fact that in the last two months, all news that pertain to Israel having their source in Egypt, are negative ones. The New Egyptian Foreign Minister announced that Egypt would now seek friendship with Iran and Syria. Amr Moussa, the leading candidate for presidency in Egypt, made several negative statements in the last few days, alluding to the need to recheck and scrutinize the international commitment of Egypt, referring obliquely to the peace agreement with Israel. We understand that and Egyptians understand that. All that is combined with the Egyptian overture towards Hamas, and it doesn’t herald a new spring arriving from the Tahrir square in Cairo. If reality refutes the constraints I’ve put on my imagination I would be happy, but this is the reality as I see it today.

Giyus.org: The Palestinians are making moves towards recognition of a Palestinian state by international community as a way to force a Palestinian State on Israel. What’s the best course of action Israel should follow here?

Minister Begin: First let’s observe that this attempt and others like it, on part of the PLO leadership, are actually an expression of their policy of refraining from taking the only path that could lead to stability and peace between the two communities west of the Jordan River, the Arab and the Jewish communities. The only path is direct negotiations without pre-conditions set on the very beginning of the negotiations. Mr. Abbas has been piling pre-conditions that change with time but amount to the same – the PLO wouldn’t like to enter into these negotiations because they realize that if they really want to achieve peace west of the Jordan River, they would have to give in on something, which they haven’t done for decades.  Actually Abu-Mazen bragged about this a few months ago in one of the PLO meetings. In reaction to Al-Jazeera leaks he asserted that the PLO never changed an iota in their platform since the declaration of independence in Tunisia 30 years ago. Well he is correct; the PLO hasn’t changed an iota. So this unilateral track would not have any hope for a positive outcome. I do hope that the Europeans and Americans do impress it upon the PLO that such declaration by the UN’s General Assembly will be futile. You do not establish a new state by such declarations. I think that the PLO leadership knows it but they are still being encouraged by some countries and some political leaders. If they’ll resort to this it will be a very negative development which will lead nowhere. But I’m not sure it will happen anyhow. In the coming months the PLO may have a second thought which will be very healthy, even from their point of view. There is an important role in this respect for European, American leaders that should serve the purpose of bringing the PLO leaders down to earth, if I may use this expressions being a geologist.

Giyus.org: A recent survey claimed that 1/3 of the Palestinians support the massacre of the Fogel family in Itamar, do you think the Palestinians genuinely want peace?

Minister Begin: We should be careful with such polls. It is very difficult for me to attach such intentions to human beings, to our neighbors. I would assume that the greater majority of our Arab neighbours would like to see nothing but their children being well educated and seeking a better future. But I would separate between   ordinary people and their leadership. There should be no doubt in the mind of an objective person, taking into account the development of the last 10 years at least, that the PLO leadership is not interested in, unwilling to and maybe unable to come to terms with any Israeli government. For example, Mr. Olmert put on the table at the end of 2008 a concrete proposal that included very far reaching concessions. The proposal entailed the following – 98% of the total area of Samaria, Judea and Gaza would be handed over to the PLO; the balance of 2% would be swapped with territory inside the midget state of Israel proper; Jerusalem would be split into 2 capitals with a safe passage under PLO control that would connect Gaza to Judea and Samaria and Israel will relinquish its sovereignty over the Temple Mount and surrounding area  to be replaced by an administration of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, USA, PLO and Israel. In addition, in the momentous interview given by Abu Mazen to Jackson Diehl of the Washington Post on May 2009, he expressed his understanding that Mr. Olmert accepted in principle the right of return of Arab refugees into the state of Israel proper (Mr. Olmert denies) and accompanied that by a proposal that Israel would accept several thousands of them. In that interview Jackson Diehl asked Mr. Abbas, so why did you decline such an offer and the short, and I think correct, answer was:  "the gaps were wide".  Where is the gap? With Mr. Olmert’s proposal, how wide could it be? Of course it would always be a wide gap vis-à-vis or the ambitions. Since the ambition is to "eliminate the Zionist entity and liberate Palestine", extending from the Jordan to the sea, we cannot satisfy these ambitions. In case you are wondering why I say this, I’m quoting the Fatah’ platform, the moderate faction within the moderate PLO, the platform that was reaffirmed on August 2009 less than 10 KMs from this office, in Bethlehem. That platform would also explain how come the Palestinians so publicly and openly reject the notion that they would ever agree to accept Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people. According to their political philosophy, Judaism is not a nation but only a religion, and religions are not eligible to sovereignty anywhere. That’s their philosophy and it still directs them and ties it all together. This also affords an explanation to those who wonder how come with all the concessions put on the table by former Israeli governments in the year 2000 under PM Barak and in 2008 under PM Olmert, were of no avail and we didn’t reach an agreement. To sum it up,  no, this PLO  leadership is not really interested in peace with the nation state of the Jewish people which is the state of Israel.

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